Crunching the census data

There's a good summary of the Welsh language census data for 2001 and 2011 here.

But for anyone who wants it, I've produced a more detailed breakdown and comparison between the two sets of data on an age band and county-by-county basis. My spreadsheet can be downloaded from here or (as my server is being a little tempramental) here.

No comment at this stage, just raw data.

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MH said...

Just a word of explanation. All the 2011 data is here, and here. It breaks things down into consistent five year age bands, except for the first 3-4 age band.

All the 2001 data is available from here (hat tip to Ioan) but you have to do a bit of navigating to find the relevant table, which is called "CAS146 - Sex and age by ability to speak Welsh". However it breaks things down into different (generally wider) age bands.

So what I've done is group together the 15 and 16-19 age bands from 2001 so that this can be directly compared with the 15-19 age band in 2011; and grouped the narrower age bands from 2011 so that they can be directly compared with the wider 2001 age bands.

I've also added the percentages, and the numerical and percentage point change between 2001 and 2011.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of Llanelli and the Aman Valley (the black hole of Welsh language transmission; is it really worth wasting additional resources there?) it seems that a lot of these quite marginal declines in absolute numbers is down to the fact that we simply have less children in Wales than we did in 2001. This and fewer parents pretending their children speak Welsh after a few lessons in the local English-medium comp. (In my view a good thing; lying about thousands of Welsh-speaking teenagers in Gwent gets us nowhere). There is
no "terminal" decline; the reality is that we are treading
water. That is not good enough however and we all need to work harder. But persuading the Welsh population that the language is "dying" is counterproductive. In Y Fro Gymraeg, it merely persuades the anti-Welsh to become more confident in their anti-Welshness.

Tarian said...

I would argue that the absolute numbers are of secondary importance - the real issue is percentages in various areas. As percentages drop the language will cease to be a viable community language in the few remaining strongholds. Once that happens there will be a crisis of confidence, decline in public usage, probably a decline in family transmission and there will be an inevitable decline in absolute numbers. This is a process that has been repeated time after time over the last hundred years and has crept steadily westward.

People really need to wake up and stop deluding themselves. The absolute numbers provide some hope that a resurgence can be effected if significant policy changes are adopted, but if we continue on the course we have set then the decline in percentages will be inexorable and the language will wither away.

Anonymous said...

meanwhile, in the Basque Country (or I believe Euskadi to be precise) language growth!


The two big differences:

1. Hardly no inmigration of the kind Wales has - retirees, unemployed people or commuter belt.

2. Strong policies where Basque is main language of councils (like Gwynedd in Wales ... not like Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion!).

3. Being responsible for own economy (Euskadi collects its own taxes and sends a portion to Madrid) Euskadi has a stronger economy than Wales and retains it's young people. They would also not pay students to study in Spain!

3. A right of centre nationalist government for 30 years, some times with Spanish Socialists, has run the country. They've prioritised Basque into all walks of life. They financially support Basque languages newspapers etc in a way which the free market mentality of Labour (and Plaid) won't do.

Lessons for Wales - sort out education system, policies to lessen inmigration to Wales (Labour's plans to build 330,000 new homes is an example), be responsible for your own economy, don't promote a brain drain which also undermines your own universities (!), mainstream Welsh into all walks of life.

Have a mass, strong grass-roots nationalist movement which doesn't go for the latest left wing fad and is totally committed to reviving the language. Wales can't save the world, but it can save the Welsh language. That's our priority. Nobody else in America, England, Australia will march for Welsh language rights. If we don't nobody does.

Most of these things, I believe, most Plaid and Labour people can agree on. Why don't we do it? If we don't agree, then there needs to be disagreement. No point having agreement for no use - like the useless Iaith Pawb.

Message to Plaid, next time, there's a budget, why not make the Welsh language a condition of that support?

Mercher said...

I don’t think that relying on government at whatever level to install measures to improve the situation regarding the Welsh language is a wise approach.

That’s not to say that the initiatives mentioned above and elsewhere on this blog would not be effective, they would be but they form a wish list and our politicians for one reason or another are not going to be be Sion Corn for us.

One thing the anti-Welsh bigots and trolls have right is that if we want a bilingual Wales Welsh speakers will have to pay for it. With our time, effort and money.

So just to get the ball rolling and starting now.
More time - I’m going to search out and use every Welsh language option to pay bills and fill in forms I can.
More effort– I’m going to do as much shopping as I can at places where Welsh is used and tell them that it’s one of the reasons why I’m patronising their shop .
More money – Take out a subscription to two Welsh language magazines or periodicals.

I realise that the above are pretty modest pledges but hopefully they’ll serve as a warm up to further actions to take during the coming decade.

Ioan said...

Last night a someone from Camarthen(shire?) said that Welsh was spoken by old people. To me, that just showed the clear difference between the South West and the North West, and the Census results shows it:

...................... %25-39 %75+ Difference
Carmarthenshire . 37.1% 52.8% -15.7%
Neath Port Talbot 11.1% 17.6% -6.5%
Swansea …........... 7.7% 14.1% -6.5%
WALES …............ 15.5% 17.5% -1.9%
Conwy …............. 29.0% 23.3% 5.7%
RCT …................. 12.3% 5.7% 6.6%
Caerphilly ….......... 9.2% 2.5% 6.7%
Gwynedd …......... 69.1% 60.7% 8.3%
Anglesey …......... 60.3% 51.8% 8.4%

I've only shown the LA where the difference is more than 5%.

source - Syniadau..!

Ioan said...

Typo - "Last night someone on the Welsh news..."

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the Welsh language survive but, like MH of this blog, I support the free movement of people even if it's not to find work. I do however understand what this means; it unfortunately means the end of Welsh as a community language within less than a generation. I'm sorry. But that's the hard choice which I've made. I love the language. But the rights of the non-Welsh to move here and buy a cheap house and live more cheaply trumps my love of Welsh.....every time.

Unknown said...

In my view it is disgraceful and anomalous that Welsh emigrants to other parts of the UK, including their linguistic abilities, are not counted in the census.

Anonymous said...

Siônyn - Welsh speakers outside Wales are an irrelevance. Their kids don't speak Welsh, except to say 'nain' and 'taid'.

If people make the choice to leave Wales for financial reasons then that's their choice. No point whinging. They don't vote, pay taxes, raise children nor by and large contribute to Welsh language life.

So what if there's 150,000 Welsh speakers outside Wales. It's a tragedy for the language but they're not a coherent or even focal or useful diaspora.

Fed up of smug Welsh speakers in England going on about their jobs and then telling us back home what needs to be done.

Hogyn o Rachub said...

@Anon 12:39

Surely the Welsh language communities have more a right to survive, and Welsh-speakers have more of a right to live in communities where the main language is Welsh, than English people do to have a nice house to retire to? I mean, SURELY?

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately, Wales is a cheaper place to live than most of England and they want to come here to live. As one who believes in the free movement of people throughout Europe, I understand that there will be collateral damage; namely minority language and cultures like that of the Welsh. So who are we to stop those in search of a bargain and nice views ot come and live here? This is also MH's and probably by now Plaid Cymru's viewpoint too. Sad....but there we are.

Anonymous said...

"he rights of the non-Welsh to move here and buy a cheap house and live more cheaply trumps my love of Welsh.....every time."

Charming. Capitalistic free market trumps the survival of a people. Really? You'd have us die as a people so that someone can live in their first choice of house???

Anonymous said...

It's not Plaid Cymru's viewpoint at all Anon 19:11, though I know you're being ironic and pushing for a reaction. We clearly live in a number of contexts where people can move freely; within the European Union, and within the British state. What we can't do is remove Wales from either of those contexts. Or at least, no viable or popular political project can remove Wales from an EU or UK context in the near future (might be possible longer term). We can't therefore 'stop' anyone doing anything in terms of where they live.

What 'we' or anyone else can do is use planning, employment and housing policies to strengthen the Welsh language in its heartland areas. This is what should be done, and has been done in some other nations.

The census results have hit me like a tonne of bricks. But saying Welsh will die is wrong. Just as saying in-migration will stop is wrong. I believe an intelligent policy can be drawn up based on sustaining communities- but Government can't do everything, especially in capitalist and indeed democratic countries where you have to get voted in.

I think Plaid Cymru is the ONLY party that will bring this kind of policy forward, and anyone that truly cares should help them get something in place by 2016. Or, work through alternative projects such as Cymdeithas, Dyfodol, or form your own party or try and influence the policies of other parties. There are lots of channels to be used but its time to be serious and not snipe at people.

Finally, suggesting or conceding the language is dying will in fact aid our opponents. 19% is still a very valid base upon which to expect recognition, rights, services and jobs. We still have to demonstrate how widely used Welsh is.

Anonymous said...

I am Anon 19:11. If in-migration carries on as it has done then the language will certainly die as a community language. I know. I live in Ceredigion and I know what changes have been taking place over the past few years. It hurts me and I used to want to stop the in-migration but MH and others have convinced me that the freedom to move within the EU trumps the importance of the Welsh of the oldest European languages ironically. But if in-migration isn't drastically cut, which I don't want it to be, the Welsh as a community language will be dead in less than 10 years. It may already be too late. It hurts me to say this, but you have to make difficult choices in life. For me, it's rather difficult; I'm almost like the Red Indian seeing his land taken from him. I may move to England if I can find work. Possibly London. It may make things view things from afar.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Anon 19.11/22.26

You appear to be espousing some kind of social darwinism: Johnny Englishman appears in Penuwch with a quarter mill tucked in his back pocket, "I say! What a splendid cottage in an upspoilt bit of countryside, and no pesky immigrants here." Johnny Englishman buys the place (depriving a local young couple of a viable home), but still thinks he's really in England.

Johnny Englishman has the money; Penuwch couple don't. English trumps Welsh: survival of the fittest. You really think that's what should happen, Anon? The Native American analogy is a good one. A new Trail of Tears to goodness knows where so that the new settlers can get the land Manifest Destiny has provided for them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 19.11/22.26 is clearly on a wind-up. Note how s/he states that MH and Plaid have convinced him of his views.

Anonymous said...

Agree with much of what Anon 09.57 has to say re. the Basque Country. A similar proportion of the population of the Basque Country (28.2% according to Wikipedia) was born outside the territory as was born outside Wales. The link between in-migration and language attrition in Wales is primarily the result of policy (both linguistic and economic) failure in Wales, the failure to manage, mitigate and shape the effects of population movements which are to *some* extent inevitable in contemporary Europe. One of the key problems in Wales is that the existing system actively privileges certain types of in-migrant at the expense of locals.
We should not be afraid to recognize that while there is a right to freedom of movement within the EU while asserting clearly that right must be balanced by responsibilities on the part of in-migrants. The Basque example would suggest how we should approach achieving this and that population movement need not inevitably be a disaster for the local language.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

Thank you, Anon 00.17. I must be a bit socially awkward - don't have one of those irony filter thingies!

Still, what Anon 19.11/22.26 is suggesting does sound like the kind of thing someone with money and no social conscience might just say. "I like the place, I've got the money, why shouldn't I buy it, then?"

Anonymous said...

Immigration is also huge in parts of London. So how does English pull through? Simple: the London Government says, you may come, you may speak Bengali/Polish/Urdu etc at home, but your children must be educated through the medium of English only. And as a matter of absolute principle, the Englishman in the street will never, without exception, ever speak Bengali/Polish/Urdu to you. He will always speak English, until you learn English.

We cannot control immigration to Wales, but nothing, bar our psychological fear, requires us to speak English to people who move to Welsh-speaking communities and refuse to learn Welsh. We should simply refuse to speak English to them; whenever, wherever, in the shop, in the street. And we should carry on refusing to speak English to them until they learn Welsh.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed by these figures, but not surprised - because in Y Fro Welsh speakers are being squeezed out by incomers, and outside Y Fro there are few opportunities to use the language in everyday use.

As one step (and I realise that a number of bigger steps are also needed) we should first promote the use of Wenglish in the more anglicised parts of Wales. Starting with schools, local authorities and government offices, we should start promoting the use of Bore Da, Diolch Yn Fawr, etc in everyday speech - not just on telephone switchboards.

Even if we can encourage everyone to use a minimal set of say 20 words it will get the language back onto the streets - it will not make up for the decline in Y Fro but it will remind everyone that we have another language and will reduce the fear factor when trying to speak Welsh on the streets of Cardiff or Gwent.


Neilyn said...


Ed Milliband to call today for everyone in Britain to speak English -

"If we are going to build One Nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here," he will say according to the BBC.

In addition -

"But at the same time we know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture. The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet."

"In part, that means rejecting the idea that people can live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives, protected from hatreds but never building a common bond - never learning to appreciate one another", he will explain.

Carwyn Jones - Ti YW Prif Weinidog Cymru, NID arweinydd yr wrthblaid yng Nghymru. Felly, onid oes yr HAWL FOESOL gennyt erbyn rwan i ddilyn arweinydd dy blaid yn Llundain a gwneud yr union un datganiad parthed Cymru a'r Gymraeg?

A very timely and useful call to arms by Ed Milliband, which will undoubtedly be (incorrectly) used as a propaganda tool by the anti-Welsh, but in truth this is precisely what we need to hear from the British political class in London. There's no longer anywhere left to hide. It's crunch time.

Anonymous said...

Un-fettered immigration is good. Multiculturalism is good....well in our case....mono-cultural English type culture but we will be part of the new multi-cultural society which works so well in London and Birmingham. It can be our culture too! It works so well that tens of thousands of our fellow Brits want to depart their utopian multicultural existence in England and come to Wales to evangelize and convert us to this new way of life. Ed Milliband has said that it is good. Our political class say that it is good. It must be good. On a more practical level, there is also a need for foreign capital from Russian and Middle and Far Easter Billionaires to flow into the capital.....or the housing market will collapse. We also need cheap Labour to man McDonalds and old people's homes and all those lovely eateries in the West End. To clean the offices and all those nice houses in Primrose Hill and wash our cars. Ask Ed. They are also needed to carry out maintenance on our property investments. Again ask Ed. What is the Welsh language, important as it is, when compared with these more important considerations?

Anonymous said...

A crap dog whistle speech by Ed Miliband that makes NO reference to Welsh. The fact he ignores an existing culture in the UK says it all about Wales' place in his dire 'One Nation' agenda.

English is NOT under threat from Poles, eastern Europeas, Asians or any other group. Welsh IS under threat but is ignored in Miliband's speech.

More calmly, alot of people are talking about inflow, what about outflow? We simply don't have the jobs in Welsh-speaking communities to retain our young people. It's happening all over the world in rural communities. Can we mitigate this in Wales?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:45 'Rural' Wales isn't in outer Mongolia. But Labour in Wales don't want powers which would make a difference.

Anonymous said...

"As one step (and I realise that a number of bigger steps are also needed) we should first promote the use of Wenglish in the more anglicised parts of Wales. Starting with schools, local authorities and government offices, we should start promoting the use of Bore Da, Diolch Yn Fawr, etc in everyday speech - not just on telephone switchboards."

A good idea. If only more of our public figures shared Derek the Weatherman's enthusiasm for incidental Welsh. It's nothing to say "shwmae?" or "diolch"!

We need to take more pride in our Welsh accents as well. If the language goes - we can't let our accents go with it!

Anonymous said...


MH said...

Thanks for all the comments, and please forgive me for not addressing them all. However here are a few thoughts:

I don't think we need to change course on the language, and I don't think that there is any sudden emergency. Of course these figures are disappointing, but that is not really the issue. The issue is what we do about it. There is no single answer. We have to do a lot of things, but many of the things we need to do will take a long time to bear fruit, perhaps one or two generations. We also need to bear in mind that there is a difference between what is important and what is urgent. We all agree that the language is important (it's important even for those who hate it, that's why they spend so much time and effort on it) but I don't think we need a sudden change of course. We're getting most of it right, and I think the main thing we need is more determination to see things through to the point where they will bear fruit. Though of course there are also new things we could be doing in addition to what we already are doing.


I think those who see the main cause of the problem as immigration and emigration from Wales have a perfectly valid point. The question is what we should and shouldn't do about it. I think my own views are clear, and Anon 20:34 summarized it well in the first part of his comment. I do not want to restrict the right of any individual or family to settle in any part of Wales, because I value the rights that we have to live and work in any part of the EU.

But I do think we should make better use of the tools at our disposal to discourage the scale of population movement that we are currently seeing. We can, as 20:34 said, use planning, employment and housing policies to strengthen the Welsh language in its heartland areas. But the main thing we need to do is economic. We have to ensure that there is work and affordable housing in our communities (whether Welsh-speaking or not) so that young people don't have to leave. If we succeed in this, there won't be so much of a vacuum to attract immigrants to move into the areas our young people have left.


But immigration in itself is not a disaster for the language, or at least it need not be. Both Catalunya and Euskadi have had large influxes of population, but in both countries the language is stronger than it is in Wales. We need to learn from them.


I do have a lot of time for the idea that Welsh speakers should, on an individual basis, be more assertive about using Welsh, leaving immigrants that have moved into their communities to sink or swim. If someone doesn't understand Welsh, it is their problem. Not ours.


Finally, I've written a post on what the census figures show about national identity, which I trust will show why Ed Miliband is desperately trying to sell the idea of "One Nation" to an electorate which has comprehensively rejected the idea of Britain being a nation at all.

Anonymous said...

MH what happened to the 2001 10-14 cohort by 2011?

85,675 Welsh speaker in 2001 became 37,258 Welsh speakers in 2011.

I know that many went to English universities but, really, 48,000?

MH said...

According to Hywel Jones, as I noted in this post, about 5,200 fluent Welsh speakers leave Wales each year, and it would probably be fair to add a few thousand more to this figure to include Welsh speakers of all abilities, as only 58% of Welsh speakers are fluent according to the 2004-6 Language Use Surveys. We could be talking about 8,900 a year.

So over a ten year period, anywhere between 52,000 and 89,000 Welsh speakers would leave Wales, and I suspect the largest number of these would be in the age band that was 10-14 ten years ago and is 20-24 now.

However this would be offset by those who return. Some might only have left to go to university, or to work in another country for a few years for the sake of wanting to see the world. But, very often, their plans to return don't turn out that way and they will settle in places where economic opportunities are better. Some might return in their late twenties or thirties to start a family, others might not return until they retire.

So a drop of 48,000 isn't unreasonable, because the outflow will be contentrated in that age band, but the inflow will be spread over a wider range of age bands.

Of course there are other reasons that would also contribute to that drop. The 10-14 age band in 2001 was a parental assessment of their children's ability to speak Welsh; but ten years on, the 20-14 age band in 2011 was their own assessment, and might therefore be more realistic. And it is quite likely that some of those who were in fact Welsh speakers when they were 10-14 might no longer consider themselves to be Welsh speakers ten years later if they had not used the language since they left school.

Mercher said...

One of the things we have to face up to is that Welsh speakers don't use Welsh.

For a number of years when shopping I always start the conversations in Welsh. Responses vary greatly extremes so far from English shopkeepers are being told "We don't speak Polish here" and being asked to wait while the woman called her seven year old son down so we could have a conversation in Welsh while she listened without understanding but very proudly to us talking.

Regarding Welsh speaking Shopkeepers/workers I often have to repeat what I say a they are not tuned in to hearing Welsh spoken by someone they don't already know. Then most still say - "Thank you" rather than "Diolch" even after a conversation in Welsh.

I'd suggest that it becomes the expectation and then the default position that throughout Cymru greeting etc should be in Welsh.
Starting with the BBC and the big retailers.

Of course this has to be done in a positive and sensitive way and not a you must or else manner.

Alun said...

"Regarding Welsh speaking Shopkeepers/workers I often have to repeat what I say a they are not tuned in to hearing Welsh spoken by someone they don't already know. Then most still say - "Thank you" rather than "Diolch" even after a conversation in Welsh.

"I'd suggest that it becomes the expectation and then the default position that throughout Cymru greeting etc should be in Welsh.
Starting with the BBC and the big retailers.

"Of course this has to be done in a positive and sensitive way and not a you must or else manner."

Very much agree with all of this. I come across Welsh-speaking workers in shops who simply will not speak to me in Welsh because they don't know me personally.

Just as many institutions (e.g. my local NHS Health Board) now instruct their receptionists to answer the phone bilingually, so shops should expect all workers to give initial greetings and thankyous in Welsh, whether the customer is Welsh-speaking or not. Shops are a key interaction point that can greatly raise the profile of the language. Once people have got used to it, knowledge of basic greetings etc can then become a unifying factor for everyone in Wales, regardless of main language spoken.

Anonymous said...

The large retailers would seem to be prime candidates for being subject to service delivery standards (along with the banks)next time Welsh language legislation is updated- both as important sites of social interaction and as quasi-utilities. The accounts above of the awkwardness experienced by both Welsh-speaking staff and customers in their interactions shows we are some distance for achieving linguistic normalization.

Anonymous said...

In-migration can't be stopped and won't be stopped. Forget it. Concentrate on promoting the language positively. In 1991 we had 508,098 speakers (18.7%). In 2011 it's grown to 562,016 (19%). A small rise, but a success considering the unprecedented in-migration into Wales that has taken place in the previous two decades. The 2001 figures were false. That's why it looks so bad this year.

Nonetheless, a minority language such as Welsh is going to be permanently embattled and in crisis in its heartlands. I've seen Cynog Dafis and Dafydd Elis-Thomas dispute that the concept of 'heartlands' is useful but (though i'm no expert) I think it helps those of us in the south if we can say that there are parts of Wales where it is overwhelmingly the main language. This doesn't mean retreating from the rest of Wales at all.

I also think if we (people that are active in supporting Welsh) suggest that it is dying or collapsing, our opponents will take advantage of that and it might come back to haunt us. If anything we need to be talking up the stats, not deflating them. It's not directly related but i've noticed in the past some Plaid activists always talking down the party rather than hyping it. The perception of crisis to outsiders needs to be averted and we need some confidence.

I hope organisations such as Dyfodol and Cymdeithas can step up to the plate and influence change.

Anonymous said...

Simon Brooks in his Click on Wales article is very reasoned and points out that making the language a sustainability issue is the way forward. I think this is a strong analysis. Solutions to promote Welsh and sustain it must be popular (and supported by voters) and consistent with the kind of political ideology most of Wales has. Not exclusivity or ranting. Sustainability has alot of public support as a vague concept, and making the language part of that is surely possible. Opinion polls show that most Welsh people don't support putting "the economy" above environmental considerations. Welsh should be given the same importance as those environmental considerations.

Anonymous said...

Accepting that i am being anecdotal but i think the census figure could be quite wrong, I have quizzed dozens of people who can get by in welsh but said they could not speak welsh on the form.e,g My nieghbour has an A level in welsh and can understand and speak to a reasonable standard (with prompting] but declared he couldn,ton form. Also met lady in local gym who keeps telling me how awful her welsh is _ she put No aswell!

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